Crete is the largest and most famous island in Greece. It is magnificent and a popular tourist destination for travelers worldwide. With an abundance of ancient ruins and impressive scenery, Crete is a destination for every style of traveler.
It holds many historical stories, myths, and lessons that are still passed down through each generation. Crete, Greece, features incredible cuisine and fantastic tourist attractions to explore.
The island is divided into four sections: Lasithi, Heraklion, Rethymnon, and Chania.
In this article, I will look at the best areas to stay in Crete, by looking at the attractions, activities, and accommodation options that each has to offer.
Best Places To Stay in Crete
Just need to know the best accommodations in Crete. Here are our top picks for the best places to stay!
- 🏨 Best Overall Hotel — Mirabile Luxury Suites
- 🌅 Best Luxury Hotel — Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas
- 🏚 Best Budget Hotel — Villa Orestis
- 🏯 Best Boutique Hotel — Hanim Boutique Hotel
- 👪 Best Hotel For Families — Delina Mountain Resort
- 🧍🏻♂️ Best Hostel for Solo Travellers — Matala Hostel
- 👫 Best Hotel for Couples — Aqua Blu
The 4 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Crete
Incredible landscapes, extraordinary beaches, and island life vibes
Lasithi is a region in Crete, Greece, that is vastly untouched by tourism. Its landscapes are unspoiled, and it boasts incredible views. Lasithi beaches are like no other and boast beautiful clear water, insulated by the only palm tree forest in Europe. This astonishing forest is home to approximately 5,000 palm trees.
The area of Lasithi is known mainly for its mountainous terrain. Check out the archaeological museum and explore rich, historical findings.
Lasithi boasts countless caves, small island getaways, and other natural treasures. It is said to be home to over 800 caves, only 300 of those having been explored.
It provides excellent hiking opportunities for adventurous, outdoorsy travelers. Picture twenty-foot waterfalls, old, ancient trees, and beautiful mountainous terrain, and you have Lasithi.
Lasithi covers the eastern region of the island, giving it incredible views and scenery. Villages in Lasithi remain traditional, with many flairs of culture at every turn. However, villagers live with an “Island lifestyle” and are very friendly, carefree, and joyful.
In Lasithi, you will find dazzling beaches, incredible archaeological sites to explore and learn, as well as find friendship among its inhabitants. Lasithi, though popular, remains quiet, calm, and peaceful.
There are many coastal villages to wander through with numerous local shops to explore and support. Visit Petras. This is an essential Minoan settlement that lies on a low hill overlooking the sea. The village is history-rich and was involved in battles involving the village being conquered.
If you love architecture or are interested in the history of Crete, ensure you visit Zakros. The Palace of Zakros is a sight to see. Built with combat strategy in mind, Zakros had small houses and brick, cobblestone roads.
Visit the Malatos Cave and step into a small church inside the cave itself. There are many incredible things to see and do in Lasithi, Crete.
Lasithi is beautiful, with incredible landscapes, extraordinary beaches, and island life vibes. You’ll feel right at home in Lasithi with its friendly inhabitants and welcoming villages.
Known for its stunning landscapes and picturesque beaches, the region of Lasithi is one of the best places to stay in Crete and is located in the easternmost part of the island. This area’s capital is Agios Nikolaos, while the other significant towns include Ierapetra and Sitia, all of which offer their own character. Elounda is the place to go for luxury beachfront resorts, beautiful scenery, and a laid-back atmosphere – it is a favorite for Greek celebrities.
If you prefer a different vibe, Agios Nikolaos could be an ideal choice if deciding where to stay in Crete, especially if you want to be close to some of the best beaches on the island, including Almyros, Pitroplatia and Voulisma beaches. Agios Nikolaos is much less touristy than its neighbor Elounda, yet both are great bases for exploring the Lasithi area, which boasts plenty of incredible historical sites and natural attractions.
The Lasithi Plateau can easily be explored from these towns, where you can find charming off-the-beaten-path villages, local food, and beautiful scenery. This region is well known for its windmills and makes for a great day trip from either Agios Nikolaos or Elounda. A top tip to remember if visiting this area is to visit the Psychro Cave, which is said to be the mythical birthplace or hiding place of Zeus.
Lasithi Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay for tradition, resorts, and picturesque villages
- Best Hotels – St Nicolas Bay Resort • Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas • El Greco Hotel • Elounda Bay Palace Hotel
- Best Hostels/Budget Hotels – Ikaros Art Hotel • Atlantis Hotel • Naiades Marina Hotel • Pergola Hotel
- Where to Eat – Marilena Restaurant ($$), Ofou to lo ($$), Rakomelo Cretan Cuisine ($$)
- Where to Drink – Bajamar Cocktail Bar ($$), Islalos Elounda ($$), The Wall Music Bar ($$)
For those craving a vibrant nightlife
Heraklion is the largest city on the island of Crete. It is the fourth largest city in Greece overall. It is a popular tourist destination and is home to an important ferry dock.
Heraklion has an international airport and a highway E75 that connects it to three other major cities. It is a bustling city with its own public transportation system that has 39 different routes.
Heraklion is an artsy city that loves its local artisans. Expect markets, fairs, and street vendors during your travels. Summers in Heraklion are hot and dry, whereas winters are mild and with moderate rainfalls.
It is a delightful destination to visit any time of the year. Heraklion is a beautiful city to visit for any history lovers. Rich with stories of combat, defeat, and control, Heraklion will also intellectually delight you.
A few terrific tourist attractions in Heraklion are Knossos, the Archeological Museum, Venetian Harbor, and Koules Fortress. Knossos is a historical site that has been inhabited for over 9,000 years. Various sections of the site were built during different centuries, offering a ton of historical adventures.
Enjoy the Mediterranean diet while you’re in Crete. Heraklion features a number of incredible restaurants to enjoy and is perfect for all foodies. Delicious restaurants are located all over the town and serve authentic Cretan food. Be sure to eat at Peskesi restaurant along with Amalia’s Kitchen.
Heraklion features an exquisite water-front area as well as several seaside restaurants, combining the island’s love of cuisine and beautiful nature.
If you’re someone who loves adrenaline, check out sailing, and private tours of incredible places like Knossos, Lassithi Plateau, and Mirabello Mountains.
Heraklion offers an enormous amount of adventure for the outdoorsy traveler. Enjoy a helicopter tour, scuba diving, jet-skiing, and parasailing as you see the island from a different perspective.
Heraklion offers an abundance of options to enjoy and explore the nightlife. There are many bars and clubs ranging in style from modern to traditional. You might even find a few bars that remain open all night.
Heraklion is the capital city of Crete and the largest on the island, meaning it is a playground for those who want to discover various heritage sites and enjoy the famous nightlife and exciting cuisine opportunities. The city may not be as picturesque as other towns in Crete, but if it is a hub for the activity, culture, and history you seek, this is a one-stop shop for an exciting vacation – for all ages.
History buffs will love Heraklion for its variety of incredible heritage sites like Knossos Palace and the Palace of Phaistos. At the same time, night owls and partygoers will have their pick of evening entertainment and lively bars. Heraklion is well known for its nightlife, so if you are venturing to Crete with friends or as part of a bachelor/bachelorette party, this is the right place to have fun.
If that wasn’t enough, Heraklion’s location is ideal for those who want to discover Crete’s world-famous wine country. The central wine regions are centered around Archanes, Peza, and Dafnes, but you can find various wines in local restaurants and shops. As you might have guessed, Heraklion has something for everyone, including families, groups, couples, and solo travelers, so consider this town for a fun-filled adventure.
Heraklion Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay for fascinating history and famous nightlife
- Best Hotels – GDM Megaron Hotel • Ibis Styles Heraklion • Galaxy Iraklio Hotel • Dimargio Luxury Hotel & Spa
- Best Hostels/Budget Hotels – Intra Muros Hostel • El Greco Hostel • Heraklion Youth Hostel • Hotel Kastro
- Where to Eat – Peskesi ($$), Apiri Greek Eatery ($$), Murelo Cretan Cuisine ($$)
- Where to Drink – The Garden ($$), The Bitters Bar ($$), Dish Bar Party Restaurant ($$)
- Top Attractions – Karteros Canyon, Knossos Palace, Phaistos Palace, Morosini Fountain
Offering up a plethora of attractions both new and old
Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete. It lies on the western side of the island and is full of stunning beaches, archeological sites, picturesque villages, and so much more.
Rethymnon has amazing tourist attractions to explore. Some of these are the Egyptian Lighthouse, the Rimondi Fountain, Fortezza of Rethymnon, and countless striking religious buildings. The Egyptian Lighthouse sits in the middle of the Venetian harbor. It was built during the 1830s and is now a famous landmark.
The architecture in Rethymnon is unlike any other destination you’ve visited. It is rich in large doors, arches, and cobblestones.
Restaurants in Rethymnon are located in every region. Nearly every village and every beach feature local, delicious cuisine.
Restaurants in Rethymnon stand out because of their unique recipes, delicious, mouthwatering tastes, and local, cultural atmosphere. Many bars, taverns, and restaurants showcase local musical talent during dining. A few restaurants to dine at while you’re in Crete are 7 Thalases, La Boheme, and Pigadi.
Make sure you make time to wander through Old Town. This is a pedestrian-only area that is closed off to cars. The streets are narrow and display color and culture at every turn.
Old Town is home to many hidden gems that tourists typically love. It is loaded with culture and traditions. Stop in at Arkadi Monastery and find yourself lost in the history of religion and The Orthodox Church. The 16th-century monastery is much like a fortress and is a serene, peaceful place.
Preveli Beach needs a slot on the itinerary when you are in Rethymnon. Located right on the south coast, looking out on the Libyan Sea, Preveli Beach boasts incredible views, and landscapes and even has a hidden waterfall. Take time to wander the beach and spot nature’s beautiful treasures.
Rethymnon is home to many museums as well. Some of these are The Ecclesiastical Museum and the Archeological Museum. The Ecclesiastical Museum is ideal for those who love church history. There are rare historical artifacts displayed in this museum, such as coins and inner pieces of clock towers.
Rethymnon is a busy and bustling city filled with cobblestone roads and the most incredible Venetian fortress. It features beautiful tourist attractions and is abundant with history and Greek mythology stories.
Rethymnon is located on the North coast of Crete and is similar to Chania in terms of atmosphere and charm, yet this is an excellent option if you want to avoid crowds. Here, you can find a mix of upscale beach resorts and restaurants paired with local eateries amidst the narrow maze of alleyways. One of the many highlights of Rethymnon is its stunning Venetian Harbor, which is dotted with fishing boats and lined with authentic Greek tavernas.
This is an excellent base if you want the atmosphere of Chania but with a more laid-back vibe; however, history buffs must be aware that there are fewer restored monuments than in Chania. The pedestrianized Old Town makes for an exciting adventure, and those interested in heritage and architecture will love witnessing the many Byzantine, Ottoman, Arabic, and Venetian landmarks dotted around.
This is one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in Greece and should be on your list of where to stay in Crete, especially if you value culture and history teamed with serenity. Beach lovers will have their pick of stunning beaches, such as the local Rethymnon Beach and several less crowded beaches on the south coast. Hiking enthusiasts can take advantage of hikes around Galliano Gorge and Mili Gorge, a stone’s throw from the beautiful town.
Rethymnon Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay for laid-back and beautifully preserved towns
- Best Hotels – Menta City Boutique Hotel • Atlantis Beach Hotel • Palazzo di Corina • Civitas Suites Hotel
- Best Hostels/Budget Hotels – Casa Dei Delfini • Atelier • Archontiko Old Town Suites • Rethymo House
- Where to Eat – Lissmus Restaurant ($$), Petrino ($), Stellas Kitchen ($$)
- Where to Drink – Nafpigio ($$), Chaplins ($$), Living Room Gastrobar ($$)
- Top Attractions – Archeological Museum Rethymnon, Neratze Mosque, Kourtaliotiko Gorge, Kotsifou Canyon
Perfectly curated green spaces and luxurious resorts
Chania lies on the westernmost side of the island. It is very developed and a distinct tourist attraction. The north side of Chania features many luxurious travel resorts and organized beaches, whereas the south side of Chania is more secluded and private. There are many traditional seaside villages.
The south side of Chania is abundant in secret beaches, old villages, and eye-catching architecture. Take a walk through a forest, dine at a local restaurant, or explore the many Medival castles.
Along the cobblestone paths, you will find small, local shops selling beautiful ceramics, arts, and other traditional and cultural items. Chania glows with charm and is a wonderful place to visit. Take a walk by the Old Port. Dating back to the 14th century, this area of Chania is ancient.
The Botanic Park is a beautifully tended park that grows olives, grapes, avocados, and bananas. Enjoy exploring the delicious gardens and take a rest on a bench situated under a massive tree.
The Botanic Park is accessible by bus from Chania and makes an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Visiting Balos must be on the list of how to spend time in Chania. Balos is one of the most spectacular beaches in all of Crete.
It takes effort to reach it, navigating through 7 km of rough track, but it is well worth the work. If you don’t mind the drive, visit Elafonisi while in Chania as well. It’s roughly a two-hour drive from Chania and features light turquoise-colored water and soft pink sand. There are many tours that can take care of organizing the trek to this incredible beach.
Spending time in Chania must include time at the Municipal Market as well. This incredible market features local sellers with products such as fresh vegetables, fish, and meat. Hike through a gorge and witness the most incredible views, and allow time to see Lake Kournas.
Explore the local fishing village of Loutro. Spend time lazing at the beach, swimming, or enjoying fresh Mediterranean meals while you explore the village. It can be reached only by boat or by walking along the coastline walkway.
You can find restaurants in Chania all over. They are tucked away down colorful alleys, as well as on the beach and in the bays. The island of Crete is known for its mouthwatering cuisine as it often serves local, delicious seafood. Enjoy a charming meal at Tholos Restaurant, or Pallas, which is known for its distinctive style.
Chania offers sunshine, culture, cuisine, and a laid-back, relaxed way of spending time. It’s the perfect place for people who want to embrace the outdoors and spend time in some incredible landscapes. It is home to many amazing tourist attractions, landmarks, and stunning beaches and coastlines.
Chania is one of the most well-known parts of Crete due to its major international airport, to which many visitors to the island arrive, yet this town is a fantastic place to stay for many reasons. Chania is the hub of activity and adventure, with plenty of exciting things to see and do, whether you are an adventurous couple or an active family.
Chania is, without a doubt, the best place to start your Cretan discovery, and from here, you can embark on various day trips like hiking at Samaria Gorge or visiting the 7 Villages of Apokoronas. Within the town, you have a wide variety of bars, cafes, restaurants, and nightlife venues, which means that you will never get bored here; plus, during the day, you have your pick of many cultural and outdoor delights.
The Old Town of Chania is a great place to base yourself amidst the narrow streets, colorful buildings, and beautiful architecture. The harbor is a scenic place to take a stroll, lined with waterfront eateries and bars, which are ideal for lunch with a view or a romantic evening out.
Chania Mini Guide
Best Area to Stay for activity and entertainment
- Best Hotels – Irida Hotel • Hyperion City Hotel & Spa • Arkadi Hotel • Elia Bettolo Hotel
- Best Hostels/Budget Hotels – Kumba Hostel • Fivos Pension • Castle Inn • Fagotto Art Residences
- Where to Eat – TO Xani Restaurant ($$), Apostolis Restaurant ($$), Kokido ($)
- Where to Drink – Fagotto Jazz Bar($$), Karamela All Day Bar ($$), Nama Restobar ($$)
- Top Attractions – Minoans World 9D Experience, Chania Lighthouse, Old Venetian Port of Chania, Greek National Football Team Museum
FAQs About Where to Stay in Crete, Greece
Where to stay in Crete for nightlife?
If you have heard that Crete has some incredible nightlife, you would be right, but which is the best place to stay to soak up the atmosphere? We must admit that Heraklion is the epitome of nightlife on the island, as well as Malia and Hersonissos, which are popular with groups of partygoers.
These places are thriving and boast countless bars and clubs and beach hangouts that regularly host parties so that you won't be short of entertainment.
Where should we stay in Crete as a family?
If you are traveling to Crete as a family, you might want to avoid the party areas and opt for a family-friendly area such as Agios Nikolaos or Rethymnon. Both places offer a laid-back and family-friendly atmosphere yet are not short of things to see and do in the area.
Both offer a wide range of accommodation options to suit your needs, are close to some spectacular beaches, and have plenty of historic attractions and museums to entertain all ages.
Where to stay in Crete for activities?
Chania and Agios Nikolaos are excellent options for those who want to stay active and explore the surrounding area.
Apart from being family-friendly, Agios Nikolaos offers many exciting activities like boat trips to Spinalonga Island, day trips to nearby villages, and many water sports opportunities. Chania is known for its charm, stunning old town, and its array of activities, including hiking the many surrounding gorges, embarking on boat trips, and undertaking food and history tours.
Where to stay in Crete for resorts?
Elounda must be one of the best places to choose if you seek a luxury resort atmosphere. If you want to stay somewhere that oozes charm and features upscale eateries and bars, look no further than Elounda, a place that has caught the attention of many over the years.
Here, you can find a variety of exceptional beachfront resorts, some of which are adults only, and to give you an idea of how famous this destination is, the royal family of Saudi Arabia often visits it, the Greek Prime Minister, and many other celebrities and VIPS.
So, Where Should You Stay in Crete?
- Lasithi — If you are looking for incredible landscapes, extraordinary beaches, and island life vibes, Lashita is the ideal place to unwind and explore along with a welcoming community.
- Heraklion — With an abundance of bars and restaurants, Heraklion is the ideal location to stay in for those who are as invested in the nightlife of an area as they are exploring its beauty during the day.
- Rethymnon — Great for first-time tourists to Crete, Reythmnon is a bustling city that offers an abundance of attractions both modern and steeped in Greek mythology.
- Chania — An area with two different sides, one tailored to the tourist experience with resorts and maintained beaches, the other, quiet solitude with large green spaces to explore. Chania offers a nice balance that many first-time visitors will appreciate.
You really can’t go wrong picking an area in Crete to stay in, while each has its own charm you are guaranteed picturesque sights, hearty eats, and friendly locals. Pick an area that best suits your immediate needs and get ready to explore!